Joyce Haas was in her element Monday morning, beaming with pride in a room that included one of the country’s biggest Republican stars, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, as well as some of Pennsylvania’s more prominent political figures — state House Speaker Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, and state GOP Chairman Rob Gleason.
It was the state Republican Party delegation’s Monday breakfast here in this Cleveland suburb, and a broad smile covered Haas’ face.
“Let’s just say I’ve always been enthusiastic,” the 70-year-old State College resident said. “I hide nothing. I love to smile, and I love people who smile.”
Naturally optimistic, Haas has never been one to shield her spirit. In fact, long before her career in politics, she coached U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s wife in cheerleading.
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The fact that she is still smiling says a lot about Haas. She is a member of the Republican National Convention’s Rules Committee, which, as has been widely reported, has tried to deal with differing factions among Republicans who are not certain that Donald Trump is the best person to represent their party.
Haas, vice chairman of the state Republican Party and at-large delegate, was still smiling, and she insisted her excitement was well warranted. Contrary to the speculation of pundits, Haas said the Rules Committee’s work ran “smoothly.”
With a Trump button on the lanyard around her neck, she said she and her fellow delegates have a lot of work still ahead this week, not the least of which is unifying the party, one of her top priorities.
The highlights of her juggling act Monday morning included mingling with the 350 or so people in attendance, addressing the room on the activities of the Rules Committee and meeting privately with Ryan, the event’s keynote speaker.
Sandwiched in between all of this, Haas ate breakfast and conducted interviews with several reporters. Almost immediately after the event, she jumped into a car to head to downtown Cleveland, where the heart of the convention is taking place.
“Joyce has been a trooper,” said Michael McMullen, a delegate from Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, which covers Allegheny County. “If there is an event, anywhere, she’s there.”
C. Arnold McClure, a delegate from Huntingdon County, was, unlike Haas, wearing a rather serious demeanor when he was approached by a reporter. But, a smile appeared when he talked about Haas.
He had spent most of the early morning discussing his unwavering support for Trump.
McClure echoed the sentiments that other delegates used to describe Haas, such as “hardworking,” and he said he was impressed with her steady showing of “good judgment.”
“We couldn’t have a more level-headed vice-chairman,” McClure said. “She brings experience to that forum, and I’m grateful for that.”
Haas — a mother, grandmother and Penn State alumna with a degree in English and speech communications — credited part of her political style to her father, J. Frank Conklin, even though he was a Democrat. She called him “civicly minded” and dedicated when he was the mayor of Milesburg.
Having a Democrat as a father, she said, helped her find common ground with people from all political ideologies.
“Our common goal is our future for our families,” Haas said. “Anyone who becomes a parent knows their lives change. Their one responsibility above all else is the protection, the safety, the future of how their children grow up.”
Matt Martell is a Penn State University journalism student covering the Republican National Convention for the Centre Daily Times.